SIMPLIFY SERIES: What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

What is a lifestyle entrepreneur?

We’re all familiar with the general entrepreneur. They’re the ones with a knack for business; the kids selling lemonade out on the sidewalk, or mowing lawns for everyone in their neighborhood. They embark in the business world with an idea and a pitch, hoping to land investors or funding. They build their empire quickly, taking big risks thriving at the center of their growing company. They’re the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of our world. We know them well.

But there’s a new kind of entrepreneur entering the scene, one whose popularity has grown almost seemingly overnight. They are the lifestyle entrepreneur. The lifestyle entrepreneur is one who often exists quietly in the background, slowly waiting for their budding business to grow into an empire. These entrepreneurs aren’t at the center of their business, in fact, it mostly revolves around them. They put their ideal lifestyle first and let the business work around them. They’re the Lewis Howes and the Tim Ferriss of our world. We may not know them well now, but we certainly will.

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What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

The term “Lifestyle Entrepreneur” was coined by Lewis Howes, and though it has various different meanings, the general idea is that the lifestyle entrepreneur is a person who creates a business with the intention of altering their lifestyle, and not for the sole purpose of making profits. They focus more on the rewards provided to those who enjoy and have a passion for what they’re doing in life. Generally their business does well because of their true passion – it can be contagious. People (and customers especially) can’t help but to flock toward those who’ve “figured it out” – the ones making money doing what they truly love.

And though the lifestyle part looks different for each lifestyle entrepreneur, the point is they don’t work in their business and then come home for the day – their business supports their life, it’s a part of it, it’s in everything they do because it’s what they’re passionate about.  

Regardless of the differences among lifestyle entrepreneurs as individuals, they all tend to share some similar traits. Here are some things that set lifestyle entrepreneurs apart from the business crowd.

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Put Life First

Of course money is important to anyone starting a business or working in the professional field in general, but for some entrepreneurs, money isn’t everything. A lifestyle entrepreneur will often measure success by how much they love their work, not how much they earn.

To a lifestyle entrepreneur the freedom to work in their own way by their own rules, the flexible schedule from any location, and the ability to spend more time with the people important to them are all more important than the money in the bank. Paying the bills and being able to survive are still a must for them. They wouldn’t thrive in their lifestyle if they weren’t making ends meet. The difference is that they aren’t defining themselves by their net worth – they don’t focus so heavily on the numbers, and center their business around the other benefits they receive.   

Lifestyle entrepreneurs

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Spend Time in Their Business Because They Love It, Not Because They Feel Like They *Have* To

For the lifestyle entrepreneur, business and life become one symbiotically working machine – and that’s a great thing! – because they’ve taken what they love and figured out how to make that pay for their lifestyle, rather than the other way around. It’s an idea that is sometimes called a muse business, one that starts with an interest and then turns into a product or service.

It can be thought of as a sort of means to an end, though oftentimes for a lifestyle entrepreneur there is no hard “end” in sight. They’re doing what they love so what’s the rush? Their business may take some time to build, but for them that’s cake compared with spending the rest of their life working a standard 9 to 5.    

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Turn Passions and Interests into Products and Services

Given that your standard lifestyle entrepreneur is going to wind up putting in a lot of long hours building up the business that will eventually buy their freedom, it’s critical that they build off of this idea of a muse business and stick with it. Though the particular qualities for a business will vary depending upon the person building it, they should at least adhere to a few standards of success.

First, the business needs to be able to grow without demanding a ton of extra time. If freedom and flexibility are the heart and soul of a lifestyle entrepreneur’s ideals, a ton of extra time being “plugged in” isn’t going to align with that.

Of course, there are going to be times when the lifestyle entrepreneur is going to have to put in a few extra hours here, maybe a weekend there, which is fine, because they’ve built it all around something they enjoy. There isn’t anyone breathing down their neck or keeping them on the clock, so if they don’t like what they’re doing, it can be detrimental to their business.

Second, the foundation of a muse business is that it’s automated for the most part; the lifestyle entrepreneur is a professional at delegating tasks, and constructing things in such a way that they are easily repeatable. They are well organized and don’t make major changes all the time, which means that they aren’t spending extra time monitoring tasks or redoing those that weren’t done right. They have time to focus on the big picture, so they can grow over time, in a way that works for their business.

It’s about striking a balance between knowing what only they can do, and knowing what can easily be outsourced to virtual professionals.

Lifestyle entrepreneur

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Embrace the Value of Outsourcing Early On – and Reap the Benefits Later

Which brings us to the last characteristic: lifestyle entrepreneurs know the value of outsourcing. In fact, small businesses often center their success around outsourcing the tasks that used to have to be completed by an in-house team.

Technological advances have made it easier than ever for businesses to outsource all kinds of professionals, from receptionists and assistants, to entire sales, marketing, and accounting departments. If a function repeats at regular intervals, it’s likely something that can be systematized, automated, and handled by an entirely virtual team.

We’ve written plenty of articles about why businesses should take advantage of virtual assistants and tips for succeeding with virtual help, but at the heart and center of it is this idea that the virtual assistants take these everyday, repeatable tasks – the social media posts, phone calls, copy editing tasks, etc. – and complete them as if they were a part of the actual in-house team. There are cost saving benefits on top of time saving benefits and increased efficiency – all details that are familiar to the lifestyle entrepreneur who’s comfortable handing off a thing or two.

The business style of a lifestyle entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, but it’s a growing trend that’s here to stay. It’s likely that technology will continue to empower these kinds of people to get out there and craft the life they’re excited to live. May they continue to bring us innovation and inspiration (and maybe a little envy for their laptop lifestyle!).

How To Actually Take a Vacation as a Small Business Owner or Entrepreneur

Small business entrepreneur vacation blog

If you’ve read our article on Why Business Owners Should Be Comfortable Taking a Vacation, you understand just how beneficial a vacation can be for your productivity, creativity, and overall well being. The thought of going on vacation is an exciting one for most people, but when you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur the idea of time off can be somewhat daunting.

Instead of booking flights and planning the details of your excursion, you’re busy thinking about the projects that may get missed or the emergencies that might arise. But vacations are an important part of any working person’s life, regardless if they own a business, and they’re possible if you have a good strategy with a bit of planning.

It can be scary to think about leaving your business behind for a few days or weeks at a time, but we’ve got some advice on how to actually take a vacation and ensure that your business is still thriving when you return.   

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Delegate and Keep Your Staff Prepared

One of the best ways to get your business to a place that it’s well-prepared for your absence is to delegate your tasks – especially the ones you don’t need to be doing anymore anyway. Having a trusted person or group of employees who can handle the bulk of your work while you’re out can ease your mind, and will show you that you can also rely on those people to cover tasks on a normal daily basis too, allowing you to focus on the business and expand your opportunities.      

Having someone that you trust in place to watch the business is only half the battle though. You still have to make sure they’re well prepared to handle the regular tasks in addition to any surprises that may come their way.

Have meetings with your staff well in advance to discuss the types of things they’ll be covering while you’re gone, and run through what-if scenarios to prepare for the unexpected. Train the most important key player as if you were hiring a replacement for yourself, because, in essence, you are (for the short-term anyway). You can leave detailed instructions or checklists for them to access in case they’re still unsure of something while you’re away, and if you’re still not comfortable, set aside a window of time when they can call you each day, just to check in if nothing else.

You may find it useful to do a test run before you actually leave, to make sure everything runs smoothly, or you can take a shorter vacation the first time around and gauge future trip lengths based on how it goes.

how to take a vacation blog

Set Boundaries Ahead of Time and Make Them Clear      

If it makes you more comfortable to check-in here and there on vacation that’s fine, but set your expectations ahead of time and stick to them. Let your staff and fellow vacationers know so they can make plans around them.

Realistically speaking, if you planned ahead and prepare your staff for your absence there won’t be a need for daily check-ins anyway – and it will be better for everyone if you don’t plug-in quite so often. But a block of time here or there probably won’t hurt anything, especially if people know to expect it ahead of time. If your staff has questions, they can wait until you’re available to answer them, and likewise, your family or friends will understand that you’re taking the time so it won’t disrupt any plans.   

If you decide to have scheduled check-ins though, make sure it’s clear that this is the only time you’ll be doing work stuff while away. If you’ve set up boundaries that people know you won’t be working outside of, your work won’t disrupt your vacation nearly as much. If that means you have to turn off your phone or mute notifications outside of these times that’s fine, but you’ll get more out of your vacation if you can unplug often, and your fellow vacationers will thank you.

Let Customers and Clients Know You’ll Be Away

This is especially important if you’re the one that does most of the legwork when it comes to interacting with customers or clients, but it’s a nice courtesy even if you’re somewhat removed. Let them know exactly when you’ll be gone and who best to reach out to if a question or issue arises so that there aren’t any surprises.    

If you have multiple people taking over for you while you’re away, let these employees know ahead of time who will be able to answer which particular types of questions, and then make a list of those people to send to your client so they aren’t getting bounced around if they call.

Preparing your employees and your clients ahead of time increases trust for both parties and sets you up for success, so it’s a win-win situation.  

how to take vacation small business owner entrepreneur blog

Be Okay with Almost Perfect

The reality of the matter is, regardless of how much you prepare, things still might not exactly go as you planned. If you go into your vacation knowing this, not only will you be able to relax better while you’re away, but when you get back you’ll be able to use the issue as a learning experience, rather than a reason to panic.

If you trained your staff well before leaving and set them up for success, the mistakes they do make – if any – are likely going to be minor. With all of the resources you empowered them with before leaving (and with a periodical check-in if it’s needed), they’ll realistically be able to handle anything that comes their way.

If you handle the mistake with a cool head upon returning, your staff will feel more confident when you decide to leave again in the future and will know how to avoid the same mistakes again.

Schedule That Vacation

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your business will fall apart without you there 24/7, but in reality if you and your staff are prepared, you’ve set up the right expectations, and you have fail-safes like check-ins in place, things are probably going to run just as smoothly as they would if you were there.

It may take a few times of you taking a vacation before the process is perfect, but each time you can fine-tune it until you feel comfortable stepping out whenever it’s needed. Empower your staff, set the necessary boundaries, make preparations, and trust the process if you’re ready to get out there and go on your next adventure.

Why Business Owners Should Be Comfortable Taking a Vacation

Business owner entrepreneur vacation blog

Come back in two weeks for our follow up piece about how to get your business to the point where you actually can take a vacation.

 

As a recent Forbes article by Victor Lipman pointed out, America is becoming the “No Vacation Nation.” So much so, in fact, that 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year. And while the reasons for not taking the time off varied slightly (“too many projects or deadlines,” “decrease the chance for advancement,” and even being pressured not to take one by their manager), the bottom line is, American workers simply aren’t taking time off – but they should be.

The effects of not taking time to recharge can be felt by anyone in the workforce but can be especially hard on entrepreneurs and business owners who tend to put their all in the company they worked hard to build. Taking a vacation is about more than just travel, though. Studies show that our productivity dips after logging long hours for an extended period of time (CNBC), so burning the midnight oil might actually be doing more harm than good in the long run.

There are a countless number of benefits to unplugging and taking a little “me” time every once in a while. Here are a few good reasons why business owners and entrepreneurs should be comfortable taking a vacation.  

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Recharging Is Good for Your Brain and Your Body

Working non-stop all the time can really take a toll. In fact, a study at the University College London found that people who worked more than 55 hours per week had a 13% greater risk of heart attack and were 33% more likely to suffer a stroke when compared to those who worked 35-40 hours per week (Harvard Health Publishing). So being overworked is about more than more than just a little-added stress.   

Being stuck on “go” for so long can leave you mentally drained as well, which leaves you vulnerable to making mistakes, and zaps your creative energy. Sure, you’re making it through the day-to-day stuff just fine, but are you still finding it easy to come up with exciting new directions for your business? If not, a small break from the grind might just be the thing that gets those juices flowing again so that you can get back to innovating.

And if you’re looking for a reason outside of a good mental charge, studies have shown that spending some time outdoors can improve memory, help ward off depression, and lower blood pressure to name a few. Business Insider recently listed off 12 science-backed reasons to spend more time in nature and, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I need much more convincing.

Unclog Your Thinking Path to Find a New Perspective

Sometimes the best way to gain new insight on a problem or project you’re working on is to disengage and find a new perspective once you’ve had some time away. Not to mention the fact that being away from your business will force you to see it in a new way. A new outlook can show you how the business can operate without you there since by leaving you will have of course left it in some capable hands.

Often you’ll hear that a business owner actually missed working while they were away – and that’s great! That means that you’ll come back into work eager and ready to produce at your full potential. Without the break, you may have been so stuck in the motions you were really not thinking about why you were doing them in the first place. You know what they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

You’ll come back with excitement and some new ways of looking at things, and hopefully with a deeper appreciation for the people you’ve chosen to share your journey with. Looking at things from the outside can often help you truly see them, so take a step back every once in a while, and see what kind of perspective you can gain.

Find New Inspiration

You can’t have a new perspective without a wealth of new ideas. Just the mental and physical break alone is likely to open up your channels for inspiration, but add in the change of scenery and routine and you’re likely to find some killer insight that may have previously been blocked out by stagnation.

Staying in the same setting for too long can have a surprisingly negative impact on thinking. In fact, pretty high up on Inc.’s list of 25 ways for entrepreneurs to find inspiration is to find new surroundings. It’s been shown to boost creativity and increase productivity, and not stepping away every once in a while can have an adverse effect. You fall easily into a routine, your blinders go up, and you sort of just go through the motions.

Out on vacation, you may meet someone whose conversation sparks a great new idea, you may see a new way of doing things that you may never have thought of before, or maybe you’ll simply come back to work and be able to see things through a new lens. All of these outcomes would be great, but you won’t have any such opportunities behind your desk every day of the year.

 

If your business is at a point where you feel like it couldn’t possibly run without you, consider reevaluating a bit to find out what it needs to get there (and check out our next blog post for some tips on how to do just that!). You won’t be able to sustain at 100% the entire time your business is running, so why not start figuring out how to get it to a place where it could stand on its own to legs for a while without you?

The evidence for the benefits of vacation is quite convincing, and at the end of the day, stepping away from the job every now and then will pay off in the long run. So book that cruise, plan that week-long hiking trip in the mountains, or even take a long, relaxing weekend with the family. Close your laptop, turn your phone on silent, and go find out what a little time off has to offer for you.    

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Great Culture in a Remote Work Environment

Remote work culture with virtual team

At The Admin Center, we’ve touted the benefits of a virtual work environment from the very beginning. It’s a workplace structure that’s ideal for our business and all of our team members. From the cost savings benefits for both the company and the employee to the greatly increased candidate pool and diverse set of creative minds, we think remote work is pretty great.

But remote work – though wonderful at most times – does have its disadvantages. Maintaining an awesome company culture and keeping morale and engagement high while reducing feelings of isolation can be a bear. Luckily there are a few extra steps you can take to ensure that your employees are productive, happy, and excited to be a part of the team.
Here’s our Ultimate Guide to Creating Great Culture in a Remote Work Environment.

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Take Advantage of Your Company’s Chat/Messaging Platform

Whether it’s Slack, Google Hangouts, or one of the various other messaging platforms available for office environments, utilizing a company chat feature of some kind is one of the best ways to bring employees together and make sure they feel included and heard.

Having dedicated chats for various teams, projects, or departments can be really helpful for organization and collaboration, but having casual chats keeps things fun and makes people feel more like they’re in-office. In a standard environment people often break up the monotony of a day with water cooler talk or a quick chat with a work pal, so why not recreate that experience over chat? At The Admin Center, our casual chat group is named “small-talk” and we describe it as “Non-work banter and water cooler” talk, a place that we all share pictures, talk about our weekends, and just generally get to know each other.

In a virtual environment, you aren’t sharing a cubicle or office with someone; you don’t pass people in the halls or get those little opportunities to ask a person about their day. In a remote work environment you have to create those moments yourself, which requires people to be willing to put in a little bit of extra work, but in the end, it allows for happy teams and close friendships – no matter how far apart your employees actually are.    

Use Video for Updates and Meetings

Here at The Admin Center, we have a policy that all meeting attendees turn on their cameras during a meeting (and if an employee doesn’t have a webcam we send them one – so no excuses!) for the simple importance of seeing each other’s faces. Without the opportunity to meet face-to-face it can be hard to communicate and empathize at full potential, but using video helps with this a lot. You don’t feel like you’re talking at a void, and you can see expressions, hear varied tones and inflections, and can actually look someone in the eyes when you’re speaking with them – it can be very personal!

Trust and communication are the foundation on which a successful remote work environment are built, and these things are so much easier when you can actually see the person you’re engaged in conversation with. There are plenty of video meeting software options available – Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting, UberConference – and with many of them offering free subscriptions, video meetings are now easier than ever to set up.

Plan/Facilitate Group Projects

In my experience, remote workers can be very “heads-down” when it comes to projects. We all tend to do it; you start in on something, plug into your music, and you’re lost to the world. It’s how a lot of us focus, but it can also contribute to a feeling of isolation. Though not every project will lend itself to this structure, setting up group projects instead of individual ones can help alleviate this problem.

This works especially well in the planning phase of client projects, but if it’s something that isn’t coming naturally you can always create group projects, too. Maybe you’re planning to migrate to a new CRM, or maybe your marketing efforts have fallen flat. Mix-and-match a bit with who you bring together on things like this, and you might be surprised at what people come up with. When people come together to work on something – especially people who wouldn’t normally be working together – it can really foster a sense of togetherness, and quickly tears down the walls that virtual environments often build unintentionally.

Have Casual Team Meetings

Of course, it’s important to touch base in team meetings to discuss goals, projects, or anything business related, but putting aside time for fun meetings such as “Happy Hour” and “Coffee Break” over video is a great way to build a sense of community. You can really make the structure of these casual meetings anything you want, but here are a few ideas I think are kind of fun:

  • Happy Hour: Hold these the same time every month, such as on the last Friday. Create an open video chat and have a theme associated with it (such as dressing up for Halloween, sharing favorite recipes, or the best jokes everyone can think of). Employees are welcome to pop in and out over the course of the hour to share some laughs and continue to build their relationships with their colleagues.
  • Coffee Break: These can be more frequent, maybe one each week. A similar structure where it’s an open meeting that people can pop in and out of when they’re free. People all bring their coffee and have a casual chat, maybe about the coffee or maybe about something that happened to them that day. It’s less structured than Happy Hour but equally as fun.
  • Book Club: Hold these on the same day each month, too. Get together with a group of people and discuss a non-work-related book that you’ve collectively read. It could be fiction or nonfiction, depending on people’s tastes, but keep it more personal and less work-themed so that you’re connecting with people and not their positions.

These are just a few ideas of what could be many. If you’ve got a fun one that you do, let us know about it in the comments!

In-Person Meetups

There is nothing that can bring a team of people close together quite like meeting up outside of work. At my old jobs it’s been things like trivia nights, happy hours, lunches out together, and even going to gymnastics gyms to hop around on some giant trampolines (I highly recommend this activity). Unfortunately, this type of getting together isn’t usually possible if your team is made up of virtual employees, as people don’t generally live in the same area.

If you’re really serious about creating a strong culture in your remote environment, you could set up company retreats once or twice each year, and get everyone together to do things that aren’t directly work-related, but bring people together. Group activities such as hiking, cooking, or learning a new skill can all foster a sense of closeness, and naturally provide an opportunity to discover more about each other.

Full-out retreats might not fit into the scope of every company, though, and that’s okay. If you have people clustered in an area, organize something that gets them together. Or, if your team is all over the place, put together a virtual get together where you all turn on your videos and just get to know each other. Maybe you agree to all do the same activity, or maybe you just talk; either way, the face-to-face time is going to do wonders for your sense of company culture.

Getting Involved in Your Local Community

Though you may not all be working out of the same places, putting a focus on local community improvement no matter where you are is a great way to define your culture. By encouraging community involvement from employees and management, you’re communicating that you care about their lives outside of work, and care about the lives and environment of the world around you. You express a vested interest in your people as a whole, and not just for what they bring to the table nine-to-five. It communicates good ethics, and lets employees know that your company is about more than just the business stuff.

And, if you think it might be hard to get people out and about in their local areas, offer some kind of soft “perk” to those interested in spending time outside of working hours to serve in their community. The experience is guaranteed to leave them feeling positive and confident when they’re done, and offering an incentive in exchange further demonstrates that you’re interested in their world and how you can make it the best it can be for them.

Send the Office Perks to Them

There is no way around it, people love perks. It doesn’t matter if it’s a company branded t-shirt, mug, or if you’ve got a fully stocked kitchen at your office’s disposal, people feel special when they get things. Though you may not be able to send a refrigerator full of goodies to each of your employees across borders, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to opt out of the perks.

Sending small fun-filled packages throughout the year – like candy during Halloween or vouchers for their local community events during winter holidays – can speak volumes to the fact that you’re thinking about your employees, you care about making them smile and ensuring that they’re enjoying their at-home environment. Gifts to commemorate milestones in the company, a job well done, and birthdays are great options, too. Welcome packages to new hires with branded “loot” can really make people feel important and involved, and are one of my favorite ways to get people excited about being a part of the team.

If you aren’t keen on mailing out packages all the time, there are other ways to “give back” to your hard-working crew. At Zapier, for instance, they give premium music streaming accounts to their employees, so that they can listen to music throughout the day. It opens up avenues of conversations between people, and helps everyone gain a better understanding of each other through tastes in music.

Reward Badges/Employee of the Month Programs

Employee of the Month programs work really well for some in-house companies, why shouldn’t that success carry over into the virtual space? Being recognized for excellence makes people want to strive to be recognized again, and can spark a sense of friendly competition among coworkers. And though you may not be able to post the winner’s picture on an actual wall, you can give them a special Slack icon, send them a gift card to a fun store in their area, or simply send out an email that really lets them shine.

If Employee of the Month isn’t a good fit for your company, try having something like a Badge system instead. Badges should be something that anyone can earn at any time – as opposed to a single employee once a month. They can be earned for any number of things, from training to helping others to compliments from a client. Get creative with it, and have some kind of prize for when a person earns a certain number of badges, so that employees have extra incentive to excel.   

This isn’t to say that people need a reason to go above and beyond, many people do this naturally and that very fact is probably why you wanted them on your team. But why not reward them a little for their excellence?

Ask for Feedback

You can have dedicated chat channels for this, but the most valuable feedback may come from anonymous surveys that will allow people to share genuine thoughts without the pressure of reprimand. No matter how “open door” your policies are, there are bound to be shy or wary people who don’t feel comfortable sharing candid thoughts or feedback – and that’s okay, as long as they have another outlet where they can safely express issues, give praise, or whatever may be on their mind about the company.

You can read as many articles as you want about good culture, how to improve your workplace, or how to keep employees happy, but the best advice is bound to come from within, directly from the people it’s intended to help. They can likely provide some sound knowledge on client needs or new ideas for a project, but they’re also a great source for finding out about what’s working, what’s not, and how to make everything come together cohesively. You hired them because you trusted their ideas and opinions, now’s the time to let them really put their talents to work.

Culture is one of the most important aspects of a business, and it’s something more companies should invest in. There are some pretty solid reasons why good company culture is so important, but the bottom line is that it’s about your people, and people should be your number one priority. If you can get together a group of people who genuinely care about your goals and mission; that are willing and excited to work toward accomplishing the same thing you are, wonderful things are bound to happen. You can’t have a great business without great people, and you won’t have (or at least won’t retain) great people if your culture isn’t there to match that greatness.  

Take some time to review your company’s current culture and see if there are areas you can improve. Looking to improve, but stuck on how to change it? Ask your employees, they’re sure to have a few ideas for how you can improve and bring everyone closer together. A little bit of time up-front will gather you so much return in the long run. And hey, you’re likely to have a good time along the way so it’s a win-win – you can’t beat it!

How To Be Awesome At Working From Home

Working remotely from home

Working from home can be a dream come true for many people: you have flexible hours, avoid commutes, spend more time with your family, and get to work during your most productive times. But working from home can also prove challenging when you’re used to the normal 9 to 5 lifestyle.

Here are a few tips and tricks to keep you on track and awesome while working from home.

Have a Defined Workspace

Of course you have a computer at home, you wouldn’t be working from home if you didn’t. But setting up your laptop at the kitchen table just after the family has finished breakfast and gone off on their separate ways isn’t the same thing as having a home office. Set up your own space. Somewhere that is yours, where kids, significant others, or roommates know to stay away - especially during your working hours.

If that means you have to go to your thrift store and pick up a cheap desk that you prop up in the corner of the living room, so be it. If you only have space for one office in the house and your spouse insists that they need computer time too now and again, that is fine, too - as long as the space is yours while you’re working.

Place some nice plants in the room, surround yourself with art or posters that you like, keep your space as tidy or with as many stack of papers as you want, just as long as it’s yours. Having a separate space not only helps you gain ownership of the work you do at home, it helps create a sense of work-life separation; something that’s very important to a virtual worker’s psyche.

Stay Organized

Remember those piles I mentioned keeping on your desk? It’s perfectly fine to do, but try to have some kind of method to the madness. If you keep your workspace organized (and the rest of the areas in your life, but we won’t get into that here) work itself can’t help but to be more organized - and better for it. You’ll be better at keeping meetings straight, your to-do list in order, and a balance in your environment.

There are plenty of benefits of being organized, including my personal favorites: reduced stress, increased productivity, and being better equipped to handle the little things when they come your way. It’s hard to be surprised by a deadline or an important meeting when you’ve already got that stuff penciled in. Don’t be surprised if you find that this sense of organization at work spills over into your home life, too - being organized just feels great!

Maintain a Schedule

If you’re already a part of a virtual company that functions on a normal 9 to 5 schedule than this may not be as important for you, but for freelancers and those work in a more flexible environment, it may be tempting to work in short sporadic spurts throughout the day. This is fine for many, and even increases productivity since you’re doing work when you know you’re best equipped to do it, but it’s still important to maintain some kind of schedule.

Maybe for you that means working two hours at a time before taking a break, or maybe it’s working in separate four-hour blocks of time, but whatever it looks like just try to keep a consistency to it. This not only invites a sense of structure into your day (which can be good for productivity, so long as it isn’t too rigid), it also lets people know when they can get ahold of you for work-related things, and when they should leave you alone.

For this last reason it may make the most sense for you to conduct your business during traditional working hours, but if that simply doesn’t work for you, don’t hold yourself to it. As long as there is some sense of predictability to when a client can reach you, when a friend should avoid trying to schedule a lunch date, and when you can be sure you’ll produce some stellar work, you should have a much better time performing in your virtual environment.  

Take Breaks

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be surprisingly hard to prioritize breaks when you’re in your home environment. You’re comfortable when you’re at home, so it can be tempting to work non-stop in an effort to get a ton of stuff accomplished - but it’s easy to burn out doing this. Get up from the computer every once in a while, stretch, maybe even go for a walk - do things that get you up and out of your home office.

You would take breaks in a traditional work environment - be it for bathroom breaks, lunch hour, or water cooler talk - and this should really be no different. Taking breaks can leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the next task at hand, and they’re great for your body, too.

If you have a hard time remembering to take breaks, schedule them into your day. Put them on your calendar and set it up so that you get a notification when it’s break time. Don’t allow yourself to hit the proverbial snooze button on your refresher; you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long-run and I promise that task or project will still be there for you when you get back.

Be Great with Communication and Always be Video Meeting Ready

I’m not saying you have to put on a pants suit or blazer every time you have a meeting scheduled (I’m in sweatpants from the waist down all day every day), but make sure that your hair is brushed, your surroundings are tidy and organized, and your overall presence is professional. This isn’t only true for client meetings, either. If you’re going to be chatting with coworkers or team members you should treat it with the same professionalism you would if they were a client. This means no eating while you’re on the phone, try to keep background distractions to a minimum, and anything else you probably wouldn’t do if you were meeting in-person.

In a virtual environment, video meetings are an almost a daily thing. They keep teams close and collaborating, they add that ‘human aspect’ that’s easily lost without the face-to-face interaction of normal business life, and they just seem to make people happy. I mean who does want to see their coworker’s or client’s smiling face?

Get Out of the House

Working from home can turn you into a bit of a homebody (heck it might be the reason you wanted to work from home in the first place). It’s funny, but it can have the same effect as spending an entire day in the office; when you’re done with your shift, all you want to do is sit around and binge a new series on Netflix and go to bed - even work from home can be draining! But if you’re pulling a full workday from the comfort of your own home it’s more important than ever to make sure you leave the house - at least once a day if you can manage it.

Run some errands before or after work, grab some groceries, get some take-out, go to the gym, or take a walk around your neighborhood - whatever you do, just make sure you’re out of the house from time-to-time. If you have the flexibility in your job, you may want to move your workspace around from time to time and test out coffee shops or local areas with wifi that aren’t just another room in your house.

Keep Your Work and Home Life Separate

You’ve got instant messages and email notifications coming to your phone during all parts of the day and can’t help yourself but to answer them (despite the familiar grumpy look on your spouse’s face). Or maybe your kids did something hilarious at school today and you can’t wait to tell your coworkers - and clients, if they’ll listen - about just how crazy your home life can be. It can be difficult to blur the lines between work and home when the two are nearly one-in-the-same for you, but it’s more important than ever in a virtual environment.

This goes hand in hand with maintaining a schedule, since it sets up boundaries for when you are and aren’t working - for the people around you and for yourself. If you and your coworkers/clients know for sure that you typically quit the day at 5 o’clock it’s easier to turn off the notifications and start fresh on work the following day. There’s always another task to do, but in the same vein there always another day to do it. Keeping distance between your work and home life will help you keep you sane, and at your peak level for performance.

Bringing too much of your work into your personal life can be a major issue, but the inverse situation can be problematic, too. What you find charming and pertinent about your family and home life, your coworkers - and especially your clients - might not. Connecting with someone on a personal level is a lot different than sharing your everyday life anecdotes. Keep the stories about your kids, pets, in-laws, or anything else like that at a minimum during working hours, and focus more on your professional relationships.

Avoid the Home Distractions

Remember that Netflix series I mentioned? For some reason, the middle of the day seems like the best time to get in a few episodes. Or maybe it’s that warm and comfy bed calling your name on a particularly dark and dreary day? There are countless things around your house that will easily serve as a distraction if you’re part of the work-from-home crew (I can practically hear my refrigerator calling my name from the other room as we speak), but distractions, like multitasking, kill productivity.

For me, the best way to cut down on distractions is by adhering to a schedule, keeping my office door closed during my work hours, and by offering myself those distractions as rewards after I’ve completed a good day at work. Sure it takes a bit of self-discipline, but it keeps me on track and gives me a better level of satisfaction at the end of the day. When I’ve tackled a few projects during my day I feel more satisfied when I’m kicking back later. I don’t have unfinished tasks looming over my head, and don’t feel like I’ve cheated myself out of the day’s full potential.

Run Errands Outside of Work Hours

When you work from home it can seem like you have all the free time in the world to get your work done and your household chores done. You imagine doing a load of laundry in between answering emails; you’ll work on a project for a bit and then maybe you’ll get dinner started, right? Well, I hate to tell you this, but studies have shown time and time again that multitasking doesn’t work (and doesn’t even exist), so this kind of thinking may actually be hurting your productivity in the end.

If you run a personal errand or step away from work for too long, it can be difficult to get back into the groove of things. The best way to avoid this is by doing your chores before or after the times you would normally be doing work, instead of interspersed within your most productive hours. If you make it a part of your routine to run errands when you aren’t working you’ll get into the habit of it - and you’ll probably see a spike of success in both activities.   

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how to be awesome at working from home infographic

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However you structure your day, however you set the boundaries between work and life, just make sure you do. There will be ups and downs to any work setting, but if you gain better control of your work setting at home, you’re guaranteed to have a better time.

And, if you’ve been working from home for awhile now and think I missed some great tips for working remotely (or think I’m totally missing the bar on some of these), let me know in the comments! I love hearing from my fellow virtual warriors. 🙂